Today we celebrate the German artist who painted botanicals with extraordinary detail.
We'll also learn about the botanist who left his mark on the anatomy of the human eye.
We celebrate the Spanish botanist who spent his life in Columbia, where, among other things, he studied the cinchona tree and used the quinine to treat malaria.
Today's Unearthed Words feature words about April.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that will help you become more self-sufficient one square foot at a time.
And then we'll wrap things up with a celebration of the California State Flower.
But first, let's catch up on some Greetings from Gardeners around the world and today's curated news.
To participate in the Gardener Greetings segment, send your garden pics, stories, birthday wishes and so forth to Jennifer@theDailyGardener.org
And, to listen to the show while you're at home, just ask Alexa or Google to play The Daily Gardener Podcast. It's that easy.
"...Home gardeners are preparing to grow their own vegetables in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting around March 16, online seed stores saw a huge spike in orders for vegetable seeds, as fears emerged that the pandemic could threaten food security.
The increase in demand was so dramatic for Wayne Gale and his Canada-based business, Stokes Seeds, that they temporarily closed down their online store for home gardeners, in order to ensure they could fill all of their requests for commercial growers. Gale's business received around 1,000 orders from home gardeners during the weekend before March 16, a period of time it would usually receive around 350 such orders. "And this is not our peak season. Usually, our peak season is the second week of February," Gale says.
Ken Wasnock, the CEO of Harris Seeds, says that the majority of his company's new demand has come from urban areas. The company has seen high volumes of sales to neighborhoods in New York City, where historically it hasn't sold much seed.
Wasnock says earlier in the spike, a lot of the orders were coming from doomsday preppers, who purchased sprouting kits that don't require natural light. In the weeks since, he's seen an increase in children's gardening products, as parents try to plan activities and projects. Wasnock says that a high percentage of seeds people are buying are organic. Some of the more popular types of vegetable seeds ordered have included squash, zucchini, tomatoes, and beans."
Dreams For Your 2020 Garden
It's decision time in the garden.
What will your projects be this year?
Often, we have no idea if our dreams for our gardens will come true. Gardeners may dream bigger dreams than emperors, but we can often get stuck, too.
We put plants in the wrong spot. We buy the wrong thing. We spend too much money. We overdo.
But, every now and then we get it completely right. I waited for years to put paths in around my front garden. Why did I wait so long? No reason, really. But, once it was in, I knew it was the perfect thing my garden had been missing.
Up at the cabin, we had a sprinkler system installed. The soil here is sandy, and without regular watering, the plants would really struggle. After getting some ¼" tubing stubbed up to the deck, I've waited a year to install a kitchen garden on my deck. This spring, that's my big dream. I'll share the elevated bed system I selected and the evolution of this garden in upcoming Episodes.
Whatever you're dreaming of and planning for your garden this season, I hope you get it completely right and that your dream comes true.
Alright, that's it for today's gardening news.
Now, if you'd like to check out my curated news articles and blog posts for yourself, you're in luck, because I share all of it with the Listener Community in the Free Facebook Group - The Daily Gardener Community.
There's no need to take notes or search for links - the next time you're on Facebook, search for Daily Gardener Community and request to join. I'd love to meet you in the group.
1528 Today is the anniversary of the death of the German painter, engraver, printmaker, mathematician, and theorist from Nuremberg, Albrecht Dürer.
Dürer's work was extraordinary, and by the time he was in his 20's, he was already quite famous.
While he was known for his calm demeanor and introversion, his work conveyed profound emotion.
During Dürer's lifetime, explorers were collected exotic plants and bulbs and bringing them home to the Old World, where they caused a sensation. The botanical focus began to shift away from plants as medicine to plants as ornamentation and beauty.
Dürer was not immune to the artistic perspective on plants, and his work captured plants with an incredible amount of detail that was unmatched by previous drawings.
If you're looking for bunny art, you should check out Dürer's watercolor called Young Hare. It's a beautiful piece, remarkable for its accuracy and realism.
One of Dürer's most famous pieces is called The Great Piece of Turf (German: Das große Rasenstück), which he created in 1503. This watercolor shows a grouping of natural plants as Dürer had observed them in nature. There is a grass that has gone to seed, plantain, and dandelion. From a botanical art standpoint, Dürer's Turf is a masterpiece, highly regarded for the realistic depiction of plants living together in community.
1759 Today is the anniversary of the death of Johann Zinn, who died young at the age of 32.
Still, Zinn accomplished much in his short life, and he focused on two areas of science: human anatomy and botany.
From an anatomy standpoint, in his early twenties, Zinn wrote an eye anatomy book and became the first person to describe the anatomy of the Iris in the human eye. There are several parts of the eye named in his honor, including the Zinn zonule, the Zinn membrane, and the Zinn artery.
It's fitting that Zinn wrote about the Iris - which of course, is also the name of a flower - and so there's some charming coincidental connection between his two passions of anatomy and botany.
In Greek mythology, Iris was a beautiful messenger - a one-woman pony express - between the Olympian gods and humans. Iris was the personification of the rainbow. She had golden wings and would travel along the rainbow carrying messages from the gods to mortals.
In the plant world, the Iris is a genus with hundreds of species and is represented by the fleur-de-lis.
When Zinn was 26 years old, he became director of the University Botanic Garden in Göttingen (pronounced "Gert-ing-en"). He thought the University was going to put him to work as a professor of anatomy, but that job was filled, and so botany was his second choice. Nonetheless, he threw himself into his work. When Zinn received an envelope of seeds from the German Ambassador to Mexico, he described the blossom in detail, and he published the first botanical illustration of the Zinnia. He also shared the seeds with other botanists throughout Europe. Like most botanists in the 1700s, Zinn corresponded with Linnaeus. No doubt Zinn's work as a bright, young garden Director and the fact that he tragically died young from tuberculosis, spurred Linnaeus to name the flower Zinn received from Mexico in his honor.
And so, Zinn lives on in the name Zinnia - a favorite flower of gardeners, and for good reasons: They come in a variety of vivid colors, they can be direct sown into the garden, they attract pollinators like butterflies, and they couldn't be easier to grow.
And, if meditation is something you struggle with, you can still become a Zinn Master, if you enjoy growing Zinnias. 🙂
And, I'd like to think Zinn would be pleased to be remembered by the Zinnia because, like the Iris, the Zinnia has a connection to the eyes.
We've all heard the phrase beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Well... in the case of the Zinnia, the Aztecs were clearly not a fan. In fact, the Aztecs had a word for Zinnia, which basically translated to the evil eye or eyesore. The Aztecs didn't care for the zinnia flower - but don't judge them because it was not the hybridized dazzling version we've grown accustomed to in today's gardens. (You can thank the French for that!) The original plants were weedy-looking with an uninspired, dull purple blossom. This is why the blossom was initially called the crassina, which means "somewhat corse" before Linnaeus changed the name to remember Zinn.
Over time, the gradual transformation of zinnias from eyesores to beauties gave Zinnias the common name Cinderella Flower. And here's a little factoid: the Zinnia is Indiana's state flower. I like to imagine when it came time for Indiana legislators to vote in favor of the Zinnia, Zinn was looking down from heaven and smiling as he heard these words: "All in favor of the zinnia, say aye."
1732 Today is the birthday of the Spanish priest, botanist, and mathematician José Celestino Mutis.
Recognized as a distinguished botanist in his home country of Spain, Mutis was the architect of the Royal Botanical Expedition of the N. Kingdom of Granada (what is now Columbia) in 1783. For almost 50 years, Mutis worked to collect and illustrate the plants in Colombian lands.
Given that he spent most of his lifetime in Colombia, it's not surprising that Mutis was able to leave a lasting legacy.
He created an impressive library complete with thousands of books on botany and the natural world. He also built a herbarium with over 24,000 species. At the time, only Joseph Banks had a herbarium that rivaled Mutis, and Banks had more resources and more support from the English government.
One of the most important aspects of Mutis' work was studying the Cinchona tree (Cinchona officinalis), which became an effective cure for yellow fever or malaria. The Cinchona tree grows in the cloud forests of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru. The Bogota Botanical Garden became Mutis' base of operations, and it was the place where the Cinchona was studied. The bark of the cinchona tree contains quinine, which became the basis for a number of medicines that are used to treat malaria. During Mutis's lifetime, it was thought that Cinchona had the potential to cure all diseases. Naturally, the Spanish crown was highly motivated to develop their understanding of the Cinchona, and they encouraged Mutis to continue to collect and study it.
In fact, Mutis used his medical knowledge to establish inoculation as a means of preventing smallpox, and he is credited with one of the first smallpox vaccination campaigns in Colombia in 1782.
In addition to his medicinal work, Mutis founded the Bogota Astronomical Observatory and supported the work of Carl Linnaeus. He sent thousands of specimens back to Spain, where they remain at the Madrid Botanical Garden.
During his time in Columbia, Mutis collected over 24,000 plant specimens. Mutis approached the job of documenting the flora of Granada in a unique way; he accomplished his mission by enlisting others. He skillfully set up a large studio as a space to get the plants captured through art. During his time in Columbia, Mutis worked with over 40 local Creole artists. He recruited them and trained them. He brought them to the studio where they could work all day long in silence. In short, Mutis set up a botanical production machine that was unsurpassed in terms of the output and the level of excellence for the times. At one point, Mutis had up to twenty artisans working all at one time. One artist would work on the plant habit while another would work on specific aspects or features. The Mutis machine created over 6,500 pieces of art - including botanical sketches and watercolors painted with pigments made from local dyes, which heightened their realism.
On the top of the Mutis bucket-list was the dream of a Flora of Bogata. Sadly it never happened.
Mutis died in Columbia in 1808. He is buried at the University of Rosario in Santa Fe, Argentina, where he taught as a professor.
Eight years after his death, the King of Spain ordered all of the output from the Mutis expedition to be shipped back home. All the work created by the Creole artisans and the entire herbarium were packed into 105 shipping crates and sent to Spain where they sat and sat and sat and waited... until 1952 when a handful was used in a large folio series. Then the Mutis collection waited another 60 years until 2010 when they were finally exhibited at Kew.
Today, the thousands of pieces that make up the Mutis collection are housed at the Botanical Garden in Madrid, Spain. The pieces are significant - mostly folio size - and since they haven't seen much daylight over the past two centuries, they are in immaculate condition.
The old 200 pesos banknote in Colombia bears the portrait of Mutis, and the Bogota Botanical Garden honors the work of Mutis with his name.
And, the plant genus Mutisia was created by the son of Carl Linnaeus and is dedicated to José Celestino Mutis along with other flora species, such as Aegiphila mutisi and Duranta mutisii (Verbenaceae), Aetanthus mutisii (Loranthaceae), among others.
Here are some thoughts on spring.
The roofs are shining from the rain,
The sparrows twitter as they fly,
And with a windy April grace
The little clouds go by.
Yet the back yards are bare and brown
With only one unchanging tree--
I could not be so sure of spring
Save that it sings in me.
— Sara Teasdale, American lyric poet, April
If spring came but once a century instead of once a year, or burst forth with the sound of an earthquake and not in silence, what wonder and expectation there would be in all hearts to behold the miraculous change.
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, American poet & educator
"The seasons, like greater tides, ebb, and flow across the continents. Spring advances up the United States at the average rate of about fifteen miles a day. It ascends mountainsides at the rate of about a hundred feet a day. It sweeps ahead like a flood of water, racing down the long valleys, creeping up hillsides in a rising tide. Most of us, like the man who lives on the bank of a river and watches the stream flow by, see only one phase of the movement of spring. Each year the season advances toward us out of the south, sweeps around us, goes flooding away to the north."
— Edwin Way Teale, naturalist, and author, North With the Spring
Grow That Garden Library
In All-New Square Food Gardening, 3rd Edition, the best-selling gardening book in North America is relaunched and updated for the next generation of gardeners and beyond.
As you might imagine, Mel's book is very popular right now with the COVID-19 pandemic causing a resurgence in gardening and self-sufficiency.
Since Square Foot Gardening was first introduced in 1981, the revolutionary new way to garden developed by Mel Bartholomew has helped millions of home gardeners grow more fresh produce in less space and with less work. Now, based mostly on the input and experience of these millions, the system has been even further refined and improved to fully meet today's changing resources, needs, and challenges.
With over 150 new photos and illustrations, this new edition makes it easier than ever to achieve nearly-foolproof results in virtually any situation: 100% of the produce; 20% of the water; 5% of the work.
Perfect for experienced Square-Foot-Gardeners or beginners, the original method created by Mel has not changed in any significant way with this new 3rd Edition of All New Square Foot Gardening. It remains: build a box; fill it with Mel's Mix; add a grid. But along with the classic steps, you will find some exciting and compelling new information, such as:
- Adding trellises and archways
- Substituting with new materials
- Adding automatic watering systems
- "Thinking Outside the Box" with creative configurations and shapes
- Square Foot Gardening in dense urban areas with little or no yard
- Square Foot Gardening with kids
Today's Botanic Spark
Every year since 2010, April 6 is California Poppy Day celebrating the California State Flower.
Poppy Day is celebrated in California schools, where activities are planned to showcase the flower along with other native plants.
The botanist Sara Allen Plummer Lemmon created the 1903 piece of legislation that nominated the golden poppy (Eschscholzia californica) as the state flower of California. The botanical name honors Johann Friedrich Von Eschscholz, who served as a doctor and surgeon onboard the Rurik world expedition in 1815.
In 1817, when the Rurik ended up in the San Francisco Bay area, the ship's botanist Adelbert von Chamisso ("Sha-ME-So") discovered the California poppy, which he named Eschscholzia californica after his friend Johanns Friedrich Von Eschscholz.
Finally, in an article in the San Francisco Call, May 15, 1898, called "The Prettiest Wild Flowers," Ettie C. Alexander shared her magnificent experiences collecting wildflowers around San Francisco before the turn-of-the-century.
The article said that Ettie's wildflower collection was the best in the state of California.
Incredibly, Ettie had teamed up with a neighbor who was a chemist, and together they had worked to refine a process – a preservative – that would help her fresh-picked wildflowers retain their fresh-picked, original color.
Ettie's process worked remarkably well. Yet, she was never able to find a process to preserve the brilliant orange color of the poppy.
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